When asked on Friday if a decision had been made on the starting quarterback for Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick said: “We’re just taking it day-by-day.”
If he had answered any other way, it would have been a landmark day in the history of Patriots press conferences.
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But the player who caused that question to be asked sounded as though he’s ready to reassume the position.
Asked about the ankle injury that has caused him to miss the past three games, quarterback Mac Jones told reporters in the New England locker room after practice on Friday: “I think it feels pretty good, just trying to work through all the stuff, being able to play in an NFL football game. I want to be able to go out there and help the team. Once I’m there, I’m there, so I’m definitely making progress. We’ve done a good job with the treatment. …
“Just going to try to do my best to put the hours in to get ready. Definitely moving better, so it feels pretty good.”
Jones had served as New England’s starting quarterback in every game of his NFL career until he sustained an ankle injury on the final offensive snap of a 37-26 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 25.
Veteran Brian Hoyer got the start on Oct. 2 but suffered a concussion in the first quarter. Rookie Bailey Zappe finished the 27-24 overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, then went all the way under center as the Patriots defeated the Detroit Lions 29-0 on Oct. 9 and the Cleveland Browns 38-15 on Sunday.
The fourth-round pick has completed 51-of-70 passes for 596 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in helping New England even its 2022 record at 3-3.
Jones completed 64-of-97 passes for 786 yards with two touchdowns and five interceptions in the first three games of 2022.
Since getting hurt, Jones has moved through the stages on the Patriots’ injury report. Ruled out for the game against Green Bay, Jones stepped up to a doubtful designation against Detroit and a questionable rating against Cleveland.
This week’s injury report listed Jones as a limited participant, as it did one week ago. But Belichick said the quarterback had done more this week at practice than he did last week.
Zappe said not knowing if he’d get another start hadn’t changed his approach at practice.
“Just doing what I’ve been doing for the last seven weeks,” Zappe said on Wednesday. “Taking advantage of every rep that I get in practice. Just trying to get better every day. That’s kind of my mindset.”
The rookie said Jones had contributed to his success.
“He’s helped a lot,” Zappe said. “Of course, he’s been in the league for a whole other year above me. I’ve been able to pick his brain. I’ve been able to ask him questions, and he’s been giving me great feedback answering them. He’s a lot of help.”
Jones made his first starts at Alabama in his third year, when he filled in for Tua Tagovailoa. The next season, Jones was an All-American for an undefeated CFP national championship team.
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“I think I’ve been in these types of situations before whether if that’s in college or not,” Jones said. “If you’re in, you’re in, and you want to have everyone helping you. He’s done a good job stepping up, being a young guy, and I’ve always had really good mentors and things like that, so that’s my plan.”
The Patriots and Bears will square off at 7:15 p.m. CDT Monday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. ESPN will televise the game.
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“Obviously, I want to be out there to help the team win,” Jones said. “That’s what I’m doing to do.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.